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Beyond politics

Recent news reports and opinion pieces on the ongoing tussle between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lieutenant Governor (LG) Najeeb Jung have painted an ugly picture of the state of governance in the national capital. Amid the ongoing row over the appointment of senior bureaucrat Shakuntala Gamlin as acting Chief Secretary, the Aam Aadmi Party-led government on Saturday removed Anindo Majumdar from his post as Principal Secretary (Services) and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre of staging a “coup” against it through the LG. Although, Kejriwal and his fellow party members could be accused of gross exaggeration, there is no doubt that by meddling with the civil servants appointment roster, Jung has bypassed the democratically elected government. Whether such a move was politically motivated or not, remains to be seen in the coming days. Beyond the hurly-burly of politics and daily sound bites, the AAP-led government is trying to address the lack of clarity involved in the political-administrative status of Delhi.  

The questions being raised by the Delhi government are central to the basic ethos of federalism embedded in our Constitution. Members from the AAP have argued that an elected government must have a say in the selection of bureaucrats it wishes to work with. The Lieutenant Governor, it argued, should act on the advice of the elected government. Therefore, can an executive appointee, like the Lieutenant Governor, overrule the representative government’s choice of bureaucrats? Stretching this argument a little further, one can understand the wider ramifications it could have on the question of Statehood for Delhi. In the current scheme of things, the Union government controls land located within the vicinity of the national capital, besides matters involving policing and public order. Although the national capital has acquired the status of partial statehood with a state legislature, barely any executive business is conducted without the prying eyes of the Union government. The entire <g data-gr-id="35">raison</g> <g data-gr-id="31">d’</g>être of a legislature is defeated when it possess no real executive powers.  

The argument often given by those who oppose full Statehood for Delhi is that it is the hub of all Government of India activities, and, therefore, goes beyond a State government’s jurisdiction. The national capital, however, exists beyond the confines of Lutyens Delhi. The national capital also contains a large mass of the disorganised middle class and the urban poor, who live under abominable conditions. Allied with a dithering municipal governance structure, Delhi, for all practical purposes, is a poorly governed State. 

The poor state of affairs in large swathes of the national capital can be boiled down to the opaque demarcation of executive and legislative responsibilities that exist between the Centre, the State government and the municipal corporations.  Kejriwal’s grouse, therefore, is relevant to the extent that under such circumstances, the State government must have a say in how the national capital is managed. Questions surrounding how the State government independently hopes to collect revenue for its day to day functioning, also remain unanswered. It is no surprise, therefore, that until the last Delhi assembly elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party had raised the issue of full statehood. It is only when its party took office at the Centre, did the BJP drops its demand for full statehood from the party poll manifesto before the Delhi assembly elections. Hence, what must be discussed is whether the demand for statehood is based on sound administrative reasons and not calculated political demands.
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